2022 Program Topic:
Friday November 18
How do we organize millions of white people into social justice movements? Divide and conquer strategies by those at the top have used race to divide people and maintain power, and the result is disastrous for all of us – including white people. Racial capitalism and authoritarian movements are threats to us all. Panelist will dive into Showing Up for Racial Justice's (SURJ) model for organizing, an approach needed to fundamentally change the cultural and political landscape in the US, but which goes against much of the current thinking about organizing white people.
SURJ formed to answer the call of Black leaders to “organize our own.” We organize majority white communities, guided by a “shared interest” approach. White people must understand that their personal interest is tied to the demands raised by BIPOC-led movements. Simultaneously, we must center those most impacted by white supremacy with a framework that incorporates both race and class. Panelists will share organizing stories from white rural, Southern, poor and working class, suburban, disabled and middle-class communities. This approach represents a departure from earlier approaches to anti-racist work with white people. It moves beyond guilt as the primary framework. We center the most marginalized people in our organizing, while understanding that middle-class people have an interest in ending white supremacy as well. With the model of shared interest, we can shift narratives about whose interests are served by the maintenance of white supremacy and create opportunities for multiracial movement building.
In the wake of QAnon, insurgent movements are embracing its model — building passionate extremist communities using the symbols and communication styles of pop-culture fandoms. When these viral techniques are combined with the infinite reach of digital platforms, the result is a dangerous new approach to hacking our democracy, consolidating influence and advancing the surging cultural power of white nationalism. From the parents’ rights movement to the pro-authoritarians, these toxic digital narrative ecosystems are activated by content created by influencers and right-wing media; held and spread by communities that criss-cross platforms and demographics; and ultimately ultimately forge the identities, beliefs and behaviors of millions.
Join Western State Center’s Eric Ward, Pop Culture Collaborative’s Tracy Van Slyke and Institute for the Future’s Jeff Yang as they share groundbreaking research and cultural analysis on how these “digital narrative ecosystems” are being created, evolved and expanded; discuss the implications of their growing role in American racialization and politics; and share insights on how these same fandom-based narrative change strategies could inspire millions of people to resist, neutralize, and supplant the white nationalist movement with the yearning for a just and pluralist society.
Saturday November 19
Reducing the police state: what we learned and how to move forward. It sometimes feels like carcerality and the police state have an insurmountable foundation built within our society and local governments. While that foundation exists, it’s not as insurmountable as it feels. After witnessing one of the largest uprisings against the police state, we learned more than ever about how these systems protect each other through state law and the concept of “police rights,” local policy/culture and the entrenchment of “back the blue” mentality, and local prosecutors abuse of power and discretion to protect the current status of policing.
From the global pandemic to racist police violence to wealth inequality and the consequences of climate change, the struggle for an inclusive democracy is in danger. The work of building inclusive democracy requires the efforts of artists and musicians as much as it needs organizers, teachers, and community and local government leaders. Art and culture-makers have always been uniquely able to bridge divides, applying their creative skill to the hopes and fears that animate and unite us, using their spotlight to hold power accountable, and inviting fans and consumers of their work into new spaces that foster inclusion and belonging.
For the past two years, Western States Center has been actively engaging with the question of what happens when we bring together diverse cohorts of artists and musicians to break isolation and discuss some of the most relevant issues of our time: racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, white nationalism, and authoritarian threats to democracy. This Facing Race panel discussion brings together a few of the voices from those cohorts: artists and musicians who have embraced the work of inclusive democracy in their art, fan and industry engagement. Workshop participants will join a conversation with these culture change-makers, including singer/songwriters from our Inclusive Democracy Culture Lab, about the power and relevance of art and music in justice and anti-bigotry movements today, the challenges they face, and the critical roles for artists and musicians in the coming days.
Since Reconstruction, the public school has been a central site of struggle for racial justice, from segregation and redlining to curriculum and the school-to-prison pipeline. Any movement strategy that leaves out schools is missing a key element of victory, and ceding ground to the forces of reaction. The anti-Critical Race Theory controversies show that we can't afford to be merely reactive when it comes to public education, but organize communities on an ongoing basis so they're prepared long before the next wave of far right attacks.
How do we break down silos to better integrate the fight for public education into larger movements for racial justice? In this session we’ll hear from practitioners who have organized across disparate issues to bring neighborhoods and cities together, and collectively chart new paths forward for grassroots activism centered in BIPOC communities.
Conspiracy theories. Bigoted rhetoric. Biological essentialism. Political scapegoating. Educators across the country are grappling with heightened ideological and racial tensions that put their students and their school communities at risk. We'll explore the history and rise of white nationalist and other bigoted movements. Then, using the Confronting White Nationalism in Schools toolkit, we'll unpack several strategies that empower educators and students to take back their school communities and build a healthy narrative around race and racial identity. Learn how to build power in your school and with your students to achieve more equitable outcomes for all. This interactive webinar will offer participants the opportunity to practice grappling with real scenarios and leave with actionable tools. We recommend that participants download the toolkit prior to the webinar at https://www.westernstatescenter.org/schools
A bigoted backlash targeting democratic institutions threatens both efforts to dismantle structural racism and the viability of American democracy itself. From school boards and universities to hospitals and state capitols, threats and political violence targeting educators, civic and health workers continue with impunity, especially directed at people of color in those roles. These dangerous bigoted movements chill democratic processes and work to undermine core institutional missions such as effective and responsive governance or the safe education of all students. Meanwhile, institutional leadership often misunderstands anti-democracy tactics or fails to grapple with the severity of the threat, leaving institutions vulnerable to escalating targeting.
Recognizing bigoted and anti-democracy strategies to undermine democratic institutions is the first step, but we cannot stop there. In this session participants will learn about how institutions can take action, and how communities can organize to help them do so, through discussion of local examples and tools for action. The session will include a discussion of perspectives from both inside and outside of key civic institutions that are dealing with pressure from white nationalist and other anti-democracy groups. Then, facilitators will make space for participants to share their own stories and experiences and engage in discussion of concrete action those within and outside of institutions can take to strengthen the resilience of democratic institutions against anti-democracy attacks and support them to reject overt bigotry, even as we challenge them to become more equitable and inclusive.